A history of the performances and entertainments that fueled the Harlem Renaissance.
This densely detailed, consistently readable account of the Harlem Renaissance focuses on the poets and novelists and "performance" in general, which for Krasner includes "any live act (not film) created for a public audience." After looking with fresh intensity at sport, dance, pageantry and parade as theater, Krasner (who directs Yale's undergraduate theater studies program) turns to more conventional but little-known dramas, including Angelina Weld Grimk 's Rachel and Zora Neale Hurston's Color Struck, along with plays by Georgia Douglas Johnson and Willis Richardson. The book concludes with a section on the events of the late 1910s to 1927 a span encompassing Marcus Garvey's historic parade, a reconsideration of Charles Gilpin's performance in Emperor Jones, an account of the rise of the Black Little Theater Movement and a treatment of the musical Shuffle Along, with a "focus on librettos, performers and audiences rather than music per se." Krasner takes readers to the scene of the performance, giving, for example, a scene-by-scene rendition of DuBois's pageant, The Star of Ethiopia, "the first mass assembly of black people for the purpose of self-determination and cultural pride." Succinct and neatly incorporated background sketches (e.g., the pageant movement and the Mammy figure), along with intelligible and accessible references to theorists (e.g., Alain Locke and Walter Benjamin), enrich the finer details. Krasner's aim is far broader than a period history of theater; he deftly concentrates on "specific events in order to sketch a larger picture" and alter people's way of thinking about the Harlem Renaissance. Photos. (Oct. 11) Forecast: Students of theater and Af-Am studies will be especially drawn to and stimulated by this book; it will undoubtedly become a supplementary or even central text in some theater courses. Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.